Ryno Leads Race To Succeed Lou

By Chris Rewers on Sunday, May 23, 2010

I do not believe that Lou Piniella will be fired, but I'm quite certain that when the Cubs open the 2011 season, Uncle Lou will be sprawled out on a hammock in the backyard of his home in Tampa, Fla.

This is the final season of his four-year contract. I think regardless of how the Cubs fare, Piniella, who will turn 67 on Aug. 28, will ride off into the sunset.

Unlike past Cubs managerial searches, Jim Hendry (assuming he is still the GM) will have many obvious and qualified candidates to consider:

Candidate: Ryne Sandberg
Current Job: Triple-A Iowa Cubs Manager
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: Even

Sandberg, the Hall of Fame second baseman who played for the Cubs would be the overwhelming fan favorite, as Steve Stone and Rick Morrissey have recently pointed out. He also is the only candidate who could match Piniella's star power.

You have to give the 49-year-old Sandberg some credit. Ryno expressed interest in the Cubs managerial job after Dusty Baker was fired at the conclusion of the 2006 season, but was told by the team's brass that he lacked the necessary experience.

Very few Hall of Famers would be willing to accept a minor-league managerial assignment, but Sandberg has paid his dues with two years at Class A Peoria, a season with Double-A Tennessee, and this season at Iowa.

Sandberg has not let his ego prevent him from experiencing the long bus rides that dominate a minor-league season, hotels that aren't major-league caliber, and the distraction that comes when a player of his caliber is present at minor-league stadiums in places like Davenport, Iowa; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Beloit, Wis. And he said last month that he's enjoying the experience.

A knock on Sandberg during his playing career was that he was too soft-spoken and lacked leadership skills, but he's been ejected from several games during his brief managerial career and has displayed an abundance of fire.

Sandberg also would bring his vast knowledge of the Cubs farm system into the manager's office at Wrigley Field, and it's logical to think that young Cubs players would feel comfortable playing for him at the major-league level.

A major Sandberg liability, however, is his lack of major-league coaching experience. With the exception of some spring training instruction, Sandberg has been away from the big league clubhouse since the end of the 1997 season.

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Candidate: Alan Trammell
Current Job: Cubs Bench Coach
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 4-1

Trammell's odds improve considerably if Piniella does not survive the season. He is well-respected by many Cubs players and has played an instrumental role in the development of infielders Ryan Theriot and Starlin Castro since he began serving as the Cubs' bench coach in 2007.

The 52-year-old Trammell has the pedigree. He had a terrific 20-year playing career with the Detroit Tigers, he has three years of major league managerial experience, additional big league coaching experience as a hitting instructor amd first-base coach, and a wealth of knowledge about Cubs personnel.

Trammell, like Sandberg, has earned a reputation as being quiet and laid-back, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports believes those qualities would serve Trammell well as Cubs manager, making him the "anti-Lou."

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Candidate: Bob Brenly
Current Job: Cubs TV Analyst
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 10-1

Bob Brenly has made it no secret that he would someday like to again manage in the major leagues.

And was it just me, or was Brenly politicking for the Rangers job while criticizing a pair of moves by Texas skipper Ron Washington during the eighth inning of Sunday's game?

The biggest feather in Brenly's hat is the World Series championship that he led the Arizona Diamondbacks to as a rookie manager in 2001.

The 56-year-old Brenly has worked in the Cubs broadcast booth since 2005 and has interviewed for managerial jobs with Milwaukee and Cincinnati in recent years.

Brenly, who took over as skipper of the Diamondbacks after serving as a broadcaster for that team the previous three years, would bring the knowledge he has gained from watching 150 or so Cubs games a year. But he would also bring an outsider's perspective to the job.

His biggest liability is the six years he's been away from the dugout. That's an awful long time.

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Candidate: Larry Rothschild
Current Job: Cubs Pitching Coach
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 15-1

I never hear Rothschild's name mentioned as a candidate, but he is obviously much respected by Hendry. He is in his ninth season as the Cubs pitching coach and has worked under four different managers - Don Baylor, Bruce Kimm, Baker, and Piniella. During his tenure, I can't remember a time when he's been involved in a spat with the manager and I can't recall an instance when he's been ripped by one of his pitchers.

I recall that the animosity between his predecessor, the late Oscar Acosta, and Baylor had gotten so bad by the end of the 2001 campaign that a Pitcher vs. Position Player feud manifested. It wasn't very beneficial to the team's chemistry. It was very similar to the Mike Ditka-Buddy Ryan Feud in the '80s with the Bears when players chose sides between the boss and his subordinate.

No one would bring a better understanding of Cubs pitchers than Rothschild. I bet he could handle a bullpen better than Piniella.

Plus, Rothschild has three-plus years of major league managerial experience (with Tampa Bay from 1998-2001) and he is a native Chicagoan. Rothschild graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in 1971.

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Candidate: Joe Girardi
Current Job: New York Yankees Manager
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 20-1

Girardi's odds would improve greatly - heck, he'd probably be the favorite - if there was any indication that he will be leaving the Yankees after this season. His contract is up after this year, but I think he likes managing in New York and that the Yankees brass has been pleased with his performance the last two years.

Despite his ties to the Cubs, I don't see him bolting the Yankees in order to take the job on the North Side.

But if his relationship with the Yankees sours, as his predecessor Joe Torre's did, Girardi would be Hendry's best and most logical choice.

Girardi, who caught for the Cubs from 1989-92 and again in 2000-01, grew up in Peoria, attended Northwestern, was popular with the Wrigley fans, was a member of four world championship Yankees teams, and also has managed the Bronx Bombers to a World Series title.

Girardi was apparently the runner-up to Piniella for the Cubs managerial post following the 2006 season.

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Candidate: Joe Maddon
Current Job: Tampa Bay Rays Manager
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 25-1

Maddon is another manager in the final year of his contact and, like Girardi, I don't believe he is going anywhere.

Maddon replaced Piniella in Tampa Bay after the 2005 season and has transformed the Rays from a laughingstock (awful team, awful uniforms, awful ballpark, no tradition) to the best team in the American League in 2010.

Maddon, who led the Rays to the AL pennant in 2008, comes across as laid-back when dealing with the media. But he also does not tolerate nonsense from his players, is upbeat and positive, and a very aggressive in-game tactician.

Unlike Piniella, Maddon demonstrated patience with Tampa Bay's many young players during his first two years on the job. That patience has flowered into a young team that should contend in the AL East for years to come.

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Candidate: Eric Wedge
Current Job: Unemployed
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 30-1

The 42-year-old Wedge is taking 2010 off from baseball after his seven-year tenure as Cleveland Indians manager came to an end last year.

Wedge was presented with a daunting task when he took over the rebuilding Indians in 2003, but he helped the young team come within one win of reaching the World Series in 2007.

My favorite fact about Wedge: He hates Milton Bradley and ran him out of Cleveland for not running out a fly ball in 2004.

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Candidate: Trey Hillman
Current Job: Unemployed
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 50-1

The 47-year-old Hillman was fired May 13 after two-plus years at the helm of the Kansas City Royals. He compiled a 152-207 record with the Royals and spent the previous five years as the skipper of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan's Pacific League,

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Candidate: Joe Torre
Current Job:Los Angeles Dodgers Manager
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 75-1

Torre will turn 70 on July 18. He does not have a contract for next year and, like Piniella, is likely mulling retirement.

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Candidate: Greg Maddux
Current Job: Cubs Assistant to the GM
Odds of Being Next Cubs Manager: 100-1

I've heard the name of the future Hall of Famer mentioned as a possible candidate in the Cubsosphere, but I've never heard Maddux express any interest in managing.

Maddux seems passionate about the art of pitching, and might some day make a terrific pitching coach. But how would he do dealing with egos and the media, filling out a lineup card or handling in-game strategy?

Plus, Maddux has even less managerial experience than Sandberg.

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